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Zumwalt East boys swimming team captures first conference championship

The Fort Zumwalt East boys swimming team captured their first conference title in program and school history on Nov. 6, winning the GAC North-Central swimming and diving championship on Nov. 6 at Rec-Plex in St. Peters. [Kristi Gannon photo]

The wait seemed forever for Brendan Hutchison and the Fort Zumwalt East boys swim team, and likely, equally long for Fort Zumwalt East High.

A talented young group of swimmers led by Hutchison claimed the first conference title in program and school’s 12-year history, winning the Gateway Athletic Conference North-Central boys swimming and diving championship Wednesday, Nov. 6 at the St. Peters Rec-Plex.

“This year we have 20 people that were all really excited to get into [swimming] and really push themselves this year, it made me really excited,” Hutchison said. “Then, after coming that far this season and winning the first GAC championship of the entire history of Fort Zumwalt East, it was a really cool experience and it made me really happy because we all put in a lot of hard work.”

Zumwalt East coach Wade Horn was equally thrilled with the club’s performance in the conference championship meet.

“It’s very surreal in a sense still,” Horn said.

At the conference’s preliminaries on Nov. 4, the Lions took first place in every event in the meet. Two days later on that Wednesday, Zumwalt East won gold medals in all but one event.

“We talk about doing what you can do best and do the best that you can do,” Horn said. “That’s all we ever ask from our kids, and they did it. They performed and they had a lot of fun doing it.”

Hutchison led the Lions onslaught with four gold medals, including the 50 and 100 free yard freestyles. Hutchison also swam the lead leg for Zumwalt East’s winning 200 free and 400 free relay teams.

“In the finals, it was just putting everything together, having perfect starts and everything pretty much had to be perfect for me to pull off what I was going for,” Hutchison said. “I wanted championships.”

He was the catalyst of the senior group that included himself, Alex Wenig, Chris Mansker, Garrett Glinn that was determined to get this year’s young club to the top of the podium after finishing third at the 2018 championship conference.

For 2019, Hutchison pointed to the contributions of some new freshmen and the relay teams as keys to the Lions breakout performance.

“I think the main thing a few of the freshmen that came in this year were swimming with the Sharks, which is the community team at the Rec-Plex,” Hutchison said. They’re just really good swimmers that are really dedicated to it, and they don’t like losing. They will do anything they can to not lose  and they added to the relays, I think the relays came together really well this year.”

Other big winners for the Lions included sophomore Christian Randall and freshman Brayden Phillips. Randall won the 200 and 500 free championships. Phillips grabbed titles in the 200 individual medley and the 100 butterfly.  Randall also swam on the 200 medley relay and Phillips helped out on the 200 free relay. They both swam on the Lions  400 free relay squad.

“They like [hitting] times and they’re like ‘Coach, I’m gonna beat my best [time], do my best and go for a personal goal,'” Horn said. “So, they have their own little goals and achievements that they individually set for themselves.”

At the end of the meet, the Lions had dominated the competition, winning 10 of 12 GAC North-Central events.

It was a showing that left Horn pleasantly surprised.

“There are very much quality teams and coaching in the GAC, and we expected it to be a dogfight throughout but again everybody did their job and got after it and performed,” Horn said.

The Lions will return for the Class 1 state meet on Thursday and Friday, Nov. 14 and 15, at the Rec-Plex.

“Looking ahead, I always try to take the approach of what’s next for us so our approach will be to take care of business one race at a time the best that we can,” Horn said.

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